WASHINGTON, D.C.- In 2002, the United States created their detention camp at a naval base in Guantanamo. At the time, American Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld stated that the camp was designed to detain extraordinarily dangerous people in order to interrogate detainees in an optimal setting, and to prosecute detainees for war crimes.
The creation of this camp came at time when the United States needed to feel secure following the attacks on 9/11. At the first, the identity of the prisoners were kept secret, but over time and after losing in court, the government admitted that the camp was home to over 750 people.
Throughout its existence, there have been several protests against the Guantanamo Bay detention camp due to its interrogation techniques and the level of treatment prisoners receive. Several former detainees have stated that they endured torture while being held at the camp.
Last week, the campo turner 14 years-old, a fact that inspired several protesters to go to the front of the White House in Washington and demand its closure. They stated that it is Obama’s responsibility to finally close this chapter of American history.
It is not the first time a protest regarding the closure of Guantanamo took place. In fact, it has been a recurring fact that every year in the prison’s anniversary, protesters get together in front of the White House to rally against Guantanamo and its existence.
This year was no exception. Over forty people participated in the protest, wearing black hoods and orange jumpsuits. There is a higher sense of urgency in the protest this year, given the fact that this year is the last year of the Obama administration.
Members of the Amnesty International joined the protesters and the Director of Security and Human Rights Programme, Naureen Shah, stated: “President Obama came in with a mandate and he even campaigned on the issue and believed that not only the Iraq war but also Guantánamo was something that he had responsibility on. Anybody who comes in next is not going to have that kind of mandate.”
Even though the rate of release from Guantanamo has been high over the past few months and several more detainees are expected to be release in the coming weeks, there are still over 100 detainee in the camp. Most of them are being held without the right to a trial or even access to the accusations they are facing.
Obama has stated several times his desire to use executive action to close the camp, but has yet to follow through with it. Protesters asked him to bypass Congress and finally put an end to the camp, something he pledged to do in his presidential election campaign in 2008.
– Julia Baldanza, Correspondent (North America)